Posted in Parenting, Travel

Picnic at Arendelle

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It is not usual for us to go on long drives. Oh, the joy of driving endlessly with a toddler in the backseat making her demands!

“I want to listen to Let It Go”

“I am hungry”

“I can’t drink water. It’s spilling”

“My dollie fell down”

“Talk to me”

A friend of mine went on a road trip a couple of weekends ago that sounded pretty interesting. Pretty sure we couldn’t do the circuit, but tempted by one particular stop on their day trip, I got hold the route map.

I’d first heard of the Wivenhoe Dam during the great Queensland floods of 2011. Relentless heavy rainfall and a tropical cyclone caused a series of devastating floods that lasted weeks. During an inquiry that followed, there were rumours of the dam operators at Wivenhoe Dam being at fault. A year or two after that, by when life had resumed to normal, someone had posted pictures of the impounded reservoir, called Lake Wivenhoe, on Facebook. It looked beautiful. That so serene a place could have caused any damage at all sounded far-fetched. The place went on my bucketlist that day.

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So calm and serene, and beautiful colours

We found at least 3 route options, ranging from a 45-minute to 90-minute drive. All three were scenic routes, with water falls and lookout points along the way. We chose one of the routes that went through Mt. Nebo and Mt. Glorious, and marked off a couple of pit stops.

All the humming and harring later, it was too late to cook up a picnic meal. Always one with a master plan, I suggested we stop off at the local grocers and “quickly grab some snacks” for the drive. We could stop at a cafe for lunch. Sweet snack or savoury? Maybe both? How filling? Decisions, decisions! The quick stop was 20 minutes long and I’d bought enough to cover snacks and lunch. Five minutes into the drive, R was hungry.

She’s not that into scenic routes. She can barely see what’s outside the window, so the questions began straightaway.

“Where are we going?” 

“Why are we going there?”

“What are we going to do?”

“Are we going to die? Will the car crash, if I read my book in the car? I don’t want to crash. I don’t want to read a book. Dada! Drive carefully. Don’t crash us. Be careful near the woods (we’d just watched Pete’s Dragon the previous night)”

Questions answered, we moved on to demands.

“Can I eat now? What do we have to eat?”

I guess I own the blame for that assumption of ‘options’. Always offering her options so she would eat one of those many snacks. I passed her some cookies and DH turned on the audio book we were going to listen to, on the drive. It doesn’t always have to be music, I declare.

“I want to listen to Let It Go”, says a voice from the back seat. Spoke too soon there, didn’t I?

“We always listen to your songs. Today, mumma and dada want to listen to a book. Why don’t you listen with us?”, I said, bracing myself for tears and tantrums. None came. Not even a sliver of a protest.

Just as I began to breathe easy, I heard, “What is he saying? What is the man saying?”

“You have to listen, sweetie. You will know what he is saying if you listen”

‘Did he say <insert friend’s name>? Is he talking about my friends?”

“I don’t know. You’re not letting me listen. I can’t hear the audio if you keep talking”

Then it came, the tantrum! I wasn’t talking to her. I’m not being nice to her. Bad bad mummy!

“I do not want to eat this cookie. What is it? I don’t like it.” Oh dear!

We stopped at our first lookout point. It wasn’t one on our plan but I saw a sign post and we stopped to have a look. There was not much but it was quite and pleasant in the woods. R was terrified. She still had visions of the poor kid getting lost in the woods, chased by wolves, from Pete’s Dragon. I reassured her that we would protect her and the animals are deep in the woods, while we were at the close to the road. She eased up a bit.

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As we arrived at the next lookout point, which was on our plan, she seemed sleepy, so we drove on without stopping. Add that to the list of sacrifices parents make for their kids. A few minutes later, she still had not slept and was flatly refusing to. Refusing to let that bother us, we turned the car around and headed back to Jolly Lookout on Mt. Nebo. She was excited to see the mountains around us and thrilled to bits at the view from the top! She may have been on mountain tops before but it was as if she was really appreciating it for the first time. It was a revelation for me.

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“We are in the Northern Mountains! Oh my God, mummy look. This is the Northern Mountains.”

“Yes! That is correct. Look down, that is Arendelle”, I said equally excited. Why not play along with her? It is a lot more fun looking at the world through her glasses. I pointed to the little town or village down below.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah!”, she squealed.

We made an impromptu decision to unpack our picnic basket and lunch at the top of the Northern Mountains (aka Mount Nebo). There were benches and barbecue grills for picnickers like us. If I had bought us some bread and sausages, grabbed a sauce bottle from home, we could have had ourselves a lunch for under $10. Instead, we split the mini-pizzas and drained it with some Vitamin water, following it up with some cookies for dessert. We took a few pictures and headed towards Mount Glorious.

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“Let us go down to the valley. That’s where the village of Arendelle is!”, I said egging her on. She was having the time of her life, singing Let It Go as she ran about a la Elsa from Frozen.

When we passed by the cafe we had intended to stop at, none of us were hungry anymore. It was not another lookout point like we had expected a la The Glasshouse Mountains, more of a roadside stop. Onward we went, without stopping. We drove right past the stores and stopped at the Maiala trail. I remembered seeing in on the internet while we were making our plans, so when I saw the signs, I figured it would be worth checking out. It led to a couple of trails. Tempting as they were to kick on, the smallest trail was a 2-hour round trip while the hike to the Greenes Falls was twice as long. It was late afternoon by then, so we decided to take a raincheck and head on to Wivenhoe Dam.

The 15-minute stop to the start of the trail and back was an event in itself. As we walked across the park towards the start of the trail, we passed by a tree with the grass under it covered by conifers shaped like long fingers… or as some would say “snakes”.

“Aaaah! Snakes! Snakes! Lots of snakes!”, R cried in absolute terror.

To make matters worse, there were the odd long dried fern-like branches with needles that hurt. Of course, they were snakes! How could they not be? They were hurting us! Tears streaming down her cheeks and terrified beyond explanation, she just kept screaming until we were out of the snake-infested area.

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Help! Help! Snakes!

I don’t know if it was the right thing but I held her hand and encouraged her to walk through it. I told her they were not snakes and I would protect her but I refused to pick her up. Maybe I should have comforted her. Maybe I did the right thing by trying to help her be brave. I do not know. We walked through it and then we walked through it again on the way back (even though we could have simply walked around it).

On the way back, I acknowledged that they were snakes and told her that we need to be quiet so as to not wake them up. I instructed her to follow my lead and step in the gaps between the sleeping snakes. It worked for a bit. She was still gripped by fear but seemed to understand that she must be quiet so as to wake the snakes up. I had to hold my breath to stop myself from crying out when one of the needles from the large branches pricked me. It was not easy navigating the ‘snakes’, while trying to hold on to a scared toddler at the same time. Eventually, we made it out of there safely. She ran to her dad and hugged him, crying.

I’d grabbed a handful of the ‘snakes’ that were shaped like letters of the alphabet. I figured if I shower her later, away from the scary pit of dangerous plant parts, she would not mind! We stopped at a park bench. I placed the ‘letter snakes’ on the table and encouraged her to touch it. She would not.

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She was clinging to me, feared for her life, while I was grabbing the “snakes” and clicking pictures for later use

We brought the snakes home in the boot of our car. Once home, I placed them on the kitchen counter. In the comfort and safety of home, the snakes having caused no real harm overnight, she mustered enough bravado to touch them. A couple of days later, she was playing with them. We plan to paint them and make something of it… as one of our weekend activities. For now, the snakes are part of our arts and crafts raw material.

From Maiala, we drove towards Lake Wivenhoe but as we arrived at the turnoff that decided whether we would also go up to Somerset Dam or not, she had nodded off. We turned right, instead of left, away from Wivenhoe and towards Somerset Dam. Along the way, at Kippa Ring Creek, we passed by a gorgeous body of water that we absolutely had to stop at and capture on camera. So we did.

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Notice how the water appears green on the left and blue on the right, with an almost discernible line?

As we left the green and blue lake, I realised that we had no phone signal. I was on phone support for work, so we had to get back to an area covered by cellular network pretty soon. We turned around and drove to Lake Wivenhoe. Just as we arrived, R woke up.

“We are here! We have arrived in Arendelle”, I announced.

We ran along the park to the water. I pointed to the mountains across the lake.

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Lake Wivenhoe, with a view of the “Northern” Mountains

“Remember how Elsa freezes the lake and runs over it, to the Northern Mountains? Well, this here is Arendelle. The lake is the one she freezes. Those mountains over there are the Northern Mountains we were at earlier”, I explained.

She was happy as she could ever be. It fit. It was so beautiful. The park, the lake, the mountains were all in line with her imagination of the beautiful kingdom and nature in her favourite movie, Frozen. She was living the dream. We spread out our picnic blanket, opened our bag of snacks and munched on a couple of rainbow cupcakes each. On the lake, we also found the abandoned tree house where Pete and Elliot, the dragon from Pete’s Dragon, lived. She wouldn’t go inside but we took some pictures from outside the ‘door’. Best day ever!

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We found Pete & Elliot’s old haunt aka treehouse!

On the way back, we stopped at the allegedly famous The Old Fernvale Bakery, to pick up a pie for dinner. The pie we brought home was truly amazing! They had some interesting flora in their backyard. Like these angry flowers.

It was a fun day. Not half as tiring as we imagined long drives would be but good enough for all of us to gorge on the pie and sneak into bed for a nice long sleep.